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Hungry Hearts

Hard Times Lookingglass Theatre Company at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts By Kerry Reid Bread and circuses are scarce in Charles Dickens’s grim Coketown. Sustenance is hard to come by for those who labor in the textile mills, and fun is forbidden to the miserable Gradgrind children, whose utilitarian middle-class father believes only […]

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Deaf to History

Night Battles Live Bait Theater By Kerry Reid “Biography is the mesh through which our real life escapes,” observes Oscar Wilde in Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love. History often seems an industrial-size fishing net, gathering up all manner of statistics, movements, beliefs, and half-remembered stories from the briny deep of the past. Some evidence […]

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The Terrible Girls

The Terrible Girls, About Face Theatre. Rebecca Brown’s episodic 1990 novel about women in love (and out of it) has drawn comparisons to the work of lesbian high priestess of high modernism Djuna Barnes. And Brown’s view of romantic love as inherently obsessive, occasionally abusive, and consuming to the point of cannibalism does share some […]

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The Junk Show

One person’s trash is Kate Sheehy’s treasure–and a treat for anyone who likes their puppetry and performance art compelling, fresh, and homemade. Sheehy curated “The Junk Show” at Link’s Hall and conceived and directed the festival’s signature piece, Junk Farm, an episodic parable of urban sprawl, deforestation, depersonalization, and exploitation featuring miniature shadow puppets, found […]

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Need

NEED, Half Cocked Productions, at the Space. Writer-director Arik Martin’s new black comedy reminds me a lot of Quentin Tarantino–before he began taking himself too seriously and became a bloated celebrity-machine joke. Some of Martin’s staging of this tale about hoodlums, junkies, and just plain weirdos recalls classic Tarantino setups. But what really makes the […]

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Night Visions

NIGHT VISIONS, Flush Puppy Productions, at Heaven Gallery, through April 21. The landscape of dreams is the thin unifying thread for this second festival from Flush Puppy Productions (their first, “Gonads,” was on the theme of sex). Four playlets and one song examine subconscious states and daydreams. The turgid, repetitive films in Matthew Osmon’s Nocturnal […]

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Men and Monsters

The Action Against Sol Schumann Victory Gardens Theater By Kerry Reid David Horowitz’s name doesn’t come up once in Jeffrey Sweet’s taut, moving, intelligent play. But in the difficult issues Sweet raises I felt the weighty presence of this vociferous and controversial opponent of slave reparations. How do we forgive the unforgivable? More to the […]

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Each in His Own Way

EACH IN HIS OWN WAY, TinFish Theatre. “Life,” Thomas Hardy observed, “is a series of seemings.” In Luigi Pirandello’s 1924 comedy, the serial seemings come fast and furious, inside out and upside down. Dragan Torbica directs a solid revival of this absurdist version of a revenger’s tragedy: a beautiful but fickle actress inspires infidelity, suicide, […]

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Between Doors

BETWEEN DOORS, Ravenous Productions, at the Athenaeum Theatre, through March 24. This trio of pieces curated by Joseph Ravens focuses on identity, transience, and stasis, with limited success. In the title piece, inspired in part by Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep, Ravens creates a challenging premise and set for his cast of five. […]

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Short Sharp Shocks

Sketchbook ‘One CollaborAction Theatre Company at the Viaduct Theater By Kerry Reid CollaborAction Theatre Com-pany describes its second annual festival of short plays as “a progressive mixed-media theatrical bazaar.” That’s just the sort of verbiage that makes me fear a theatrical cocktail made up of one part incoherence and two parts pretension, served with a […]

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Saint Joan of the Stockyards

SAINT JOAN OF THE STOCKYARDS, Prop Theatre Group, at Bailiwick Repertory. Bertolt Brecht’s transmutation of the Maid of Orleans’ struggle to the harsh underbelly of Chicago’s meatpacking industry in 1904 receives a thoughtful but occasionally stilted revival for Prop’s 20th anniversary. Adapter Stefan Brun directs an intelligent cast, including Jenny Magnus as a fiery Joan […]

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Nelson Algren: For Keeps and a Single Day

NELSON ALGREN: FOR KEEPS AND A SINGLE DAY, Lookingglass Theatre Company, at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Adapter-director-filmmaker John Musial’s unconditional love of Nelson Algren and deft understanding of the writer’s thorny relationship with Chicago drive this jazz-infused collage of 12 Algren pieces. Thom Cox brings an understated ruefulness to the narration, and […]